By Spalding Gray Audio Renaissance, 2006 Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Aug 8th 2006
The first CD of this 2-CD package
contains three short monologues by Spalding Gray, Life Interrupted, The
Anniversary, and Dear New York City, with an introduction by Francine Prose.
The second CD contains eulogies for Gray by friends and family, performed by
themselves. Gray is well known for his performances Swimming to Cambodia. In 2001 he was in a car accident in Ireland, and this led to various health
problems, that resulted in serious depression. According to one of the
accounts in the eulogies, he tried to kill himself several times, and finally
succeeded in 2005.
In Life Interrupted, Gray talks
about his accident and the difficult time he had in hospital while in Ireland, and finally his return to the USA. As Prose emphasizes, it was an unfinished piece, which
he had performed several times, but which had not gone through the same process
of revision and refinement as his other talks. It is engaging because Gray was
a born storyteller, and it is a dramatic to hear the details of the car
accident, and the trials of dealing with the Irish hospital system which is
populated by doctors from all over the world yet which has no Irish doctors are
quite funny. But it is a somewhat insubstantial story, and it is more notable
for what it leaves out than for what it includes. We do not learn much about
the aftermath of the accident, or how it affected his mood. The two shorter
pieces reflect on his life before the accident, and suggest a positive mood.
The first of these, The Anniversary, is about a day in his life that he spends
with his son, and the joy he gets from his son's spontaneity. It is a sweet
piece, and knowing that Gray would be plunged into depression not long after
performing it, it carries its own poignancy.
To be honest, however, the eulogies
to Gray are more moving. They are performed by people who loved him, and who
also found his final depression hard to cope with. They express powerfully
their sense of loss of Gray at his best, and hint that he became a very
difficult person to be around. They reminisce about how they came to know him
and what a great friend he was. Listeners can piece together something of how
his career as an artist came about, and how important he was in showing how it
could be possible to write about a fairly ordinary life and make it both
interesting and revealing. To hear the people themselves perform their words
makes the experience especially personal. Note, however, that not all the
pieces that appear in the printed book appear on this audio CD.
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main
research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.